By George Harvey
Froling Energy is working on a million-dollar expansion of its Peterborough, New Hampshire, facilities to meet a growing demand for dry wood chips.
The wood chips are marketed as Precision Dry Chips, or PDCs. The PDCs are sized by screening to exclude any that are oversized and could clog boiler feeding systems. They are also precision-dried to moisture contents of 25% to 30%. The name indicates to buyers a level of quality control.
The current production of wood chips is 1,500 to 2,000 tons per year. With the upgrade, the facility could process 10,000 tons or more.
The PDCs can be burned in dual-fuel boilers which can also burn pellets. These boilers are used in commercial buildings, schools, and other large buildings, including churches. They will be marketed to users within fifty miles of the Froling facility, of which there are potentially many.
Jim Van Valkenburgh, vice president of sales and marketing at Froling Energy explained, “The concept of a dry wood chip is common in Austria and other northern European nations, but not here.” Viessmann and larger Froling biomass boilers were originally designed to burn them.
The company’s president, Mark Froling, believes that by making PDCs easily available to customers, it will be easier to sell dual-fuel boilers, which he believes could be more important in the company’s product line than pellet boilers.
PDCs have the advantage of being inexpensive. They can compete successfully with oil, even with the current low oil prices. Their selling price is the equivalent of $1.50 per gallon for oil. Nevertheless, the boilers are large and are ideal in places where annual consumption would exceed 20,000 gallons of oil.
After developing a wood pellet company, Mark Froling had been a general contractor. He became a mechanical contractor so he could install large boilers as the demand for them increased. Fluctuations in the price of oil meant his business had to develop a new competitive ability, and it was for that reason that they started selling dual-fuel boilers. People would switch away from oil only if there was a savings involved, according to Froling.
The ability to use precision dry wood chips was hampered by a lack of widespread availability. It was for this reason that Froling began manufacturing PDCs.
The wood for the PDCs is grown locally, and it is sustainably harvested. Since they are made locally, they do not require much fossil fuel for transportation to customers. Wood is regarded as a renewable resource in New Hampshire, so Froling’s customers may qualify to receive thermal Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), which they can sell for a substantial return.
The New Hampshire Public Utility Commission is considering grants from a fund of $750,000 for furthering development of RECs in the state. Froling hopes for a grant of $300,000 from this fund. The grants are to be awarded early this year.